Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Batman and Robin (the comic book, not the movie)

I was planning on a writing a very brief blog post about Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin, which I found amusing enough when Quitely was drawing it, and much less so when Tan took over from him. And it would be short because, by the sixth issue, I just totally lost patience with it. Tan's art is muddy and hard to follow and Flamingo, while dressed up in an appropriate homage to the 60s show, is simply an awful character. (He laughs and has some sort of ambiguous resistance to pain and/or injury. That's it - he doesn't talk, doesn't do anything other than fight.)

Then Geoff pointed out this short essay at 4thletter, which argues that these six issues are a rewriting of Alan Moore's Killing Joke, a new version that's situates Jason Todd as the Joker to Dick Grayson's Batman and, further, fractures the character of the Joker and spreads his various aspects (with diminishing returns, I think) among the villains of the piece. Which is clever, but it isn't enough to redeem the awful art and generally boring story. (Maybe if it was, oh, two issues shorter and Tan didn't draw one page of it. Maybe.)


James said...

Quick thoughts on this arc: Tan's rubbish, liked some lines ("Batman and Robin say..."), fairly unmoved by the Flamingo (great cover), didn't like the casual homophobia (I don't think authorial distance is enough when your target audience is likely to take it at face value/embrace it - I had the same problem with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)...

But no, the real reason I am commenting is to say: I watched The Dark Knight again the other week, and you're right about the Joker, Neil.

neilshyminsky said...

I think that the funnier lines felt a bit flat, and it's largely Tan's fault. Quitely's lines seem appropriate to comedy, (or at least open to it) where Tan's are grim-and-gritty in the most cliché way. (And so the Red Hood himself feels out of place in Tan's book, too.)

What about the Joker was I right about? :)

James said...

Oh! In your back and forth with Omar Karindu, on whether the Joker is an anarchist/agent of chaos as he claims, or one of the "schemers" he decries (to Dent). I came down on Omar's side at the time (broadly anyway, you guys got a ways deeper than I am capable), and later when I invoked your debate in my review/defense/ramble that Geoff ran. But now: while he improvises in the micro (e.g. his escape from the MCU - so great), he's definitely planned out the macro.

neilshyminsky said...

After that back and forth, even I wasn't sure that I still agreed with me. But I suppose that that's largely a function of the Joker's ambiguity. Take his 'origin story' by way of example - Is he really so insane that he can't keep it straight? Or does he purposely and purposefully reimagine it every time he tells it? (or is there another option?) I think that where you come down in response to that question might dictate where you stand on the Joker in general.

Oh, and about Flamingo and homophobia - the whole character was so awful that I didn't even pay it any attention. Was there something in particular?

James said...

Just Robin's line about "I expected scary, not gay". I imagine the defense would be "Damian's a brat", which... sure, but it might be nice to not perpetuate "haha gay" bullshit, especially when you have a built-in audience prone to that sort of thing.

Dr Ranke Welcha said...

It's an interesting question about the Joker and his origin stories. Does he twist them each time for some benefit, or not? For example, the story he tells to Gambol (the mobster who hates him from the get go) is a story about batterings from the hand of an abusive father. Gambol already - very vocally - thinks that the Joker is just a "freak" and this is almost a story than can affirm that for him: Just a skitzo who got no love from daddy. The Joker, arguably, claims to be what Gambol wants him to be.

To Rachel, it's the (slightly) more sympathetic story of the man and wife with tragic ends.

Are these attempts to explain his behaviour to an audience that he feels requires explanations? An understanding that saying, "just know that I am this way and leave it at that" won't cut it for these citizens? Or does he like the variety? (Or, perhaps, only understand the variety and not know any set backstory himself?)

He certainly has degrees of savvy, which he uses to his advantage. The fact that there are such mysteries, though, is something that makes him so popular. Debate is far more interesting than knowing everything already.

In unrelated news, I read a short article at recently and thought you might be interested in the topic (if you haven't read it already). It's all about fictional characters who are supposedly searching for their humanity, only to require corpse-mounting action scenes to find it. It can be found here if you're interested: